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Old February 13, 2012, 01:58 PM   #1
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Grizzly rifles, confusing issue

I apologize for bringing up an often discussed issue again.
But, I am confused. Sorta.
Yesterday, I was feeding my fantasy about going on an Alaskan hunt for a big grizzly bear. I looked at the sites of a number of guides and outfitters. What they reccomended for rifle calibers left me very puzzled.
One reccomended a .270 or larger.
Another was .300 mag. or larger.
Another said .338 mag. or .375 was preferred.
And, yet another said rifles could be rented and the rifle would be a 30-06.
There is a big difference between killing power of a .270 with a thin jacketed 140 gr. bullet and a .375 mag. throwing a tough 250 gr. bullet.
Personally, I would be afraid to use a .270. My preference would be the .338 or .375.
I can't explain the wide disparity in reccomendations. More puzzling, I have to assume the guide who said .270 is experienced at killing big griz. Oh, well.
What say the jury?
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Old February 13, 2012, 02:40 PM   #2
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There are not standards. The guides/outfitters make their own rules based on there own experiences/observations.

Use what you are comfortable with that is within their guidelines... Personally, I would use a nice lever-action 45-70...
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Old February 13, 2012, 03:08 PM   #3
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Keep in mind, when hunting and shooting, the bear
is usually not charging, but feeding or just walking
around. A .270 is fine for that. When they are very
angry and charging you, you want the most powerful
cartridge you can shoot.
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Old February 13, 2012, 03:53 PM   #4
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CARNE FRIO has stated the issue correctly! Cliff
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Old February 13, 2012, 04:53 PM   #5
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A lot depends on WHERE and HOW you would be hunting. A grizzly might not weigh more than 300-500 lbs in many places. Along the coast of SE Alaska they get much larger.

There is a big difference between killing power of a .270 with a thin jacketed 140 gr. bullet and a .375 mag. throwing a tough 250 gr. bullet.
Bullet technology has changed all the old rules about what we used to think would work and what would not. There are a lot of tough 270 and .30 bullets that will penetrate plenty. A 270 or 30-06 with proper bullets will work just fine in a hunting situation. What they may not do is stop an attack quickly if a bear decides to do so. If that happens you will likely have a guide standing beside you with something along the lines of a 375.

If I were going to Alaska I'd take my 30-06 or 300 WSM and load it with 200-220gr Nosler Partitions or 180 gr Barnes TTSX bullets. Both of those have proven that they will shoot all the way through a grizzly from most any angle. A 270 loaded with comparable 150-160 gr bullets would do almost as well probably.

The bigger bores would give you a little extra insurance in case things go bad, but I doubt it will matter.
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Old February 13, 2012, 05:44 PM   #6
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Hope for the best...PLAN for the worst....

Like others say it really depends on the style of hunt you are going to be involved in.
If you have fairly open terrain with moderate yardages and are going to shoot the bear, when it is relatively unaware of your existence, then most any suitable big game caliber with a good bullet will do the job.

If you are hunting in close terrain, where up close and personal bear encounters may be the name of the game, then the medium calibers (.338 - .375) and heavies (.416 - .458) with tough bullets designed for deep penetration, capable of reaching where they live when shot from almost any angle and breaking major bones while doing it are going to be you best chance of coming home to tell the tale of your latest hunt.

The guides may be carrying a .375 H&H, .338 Mag, .458 Mag or even a .416 Rigby or a heavy loaded .45/70 in a Marlin guide gun, but in a charge situation the more firepower that can be brought to bear the more likely the hunt will end successfully.
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Old February 13, 2012, 05:59 PM   #7
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a 270 with the smallest available bullet is fully able to kill a kodiak, however not all hunters are able to kill a kodiak with that same bullet. the guys who recommend the 375 are probably just practicing a little CYA
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Old February 13, 2012, 06:16 PM   #8
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I've got a .300 Win Mag but I'd probably take a .375 H&H for Kodiak Brown bear. I've read enough horror stories that I don't want to prove my manhood by shooting a grizzly with .243 or something....

I watched a tv show where the Ruger sales guy shot a big grizzly with a .375 Ruger (?) broadside right in the boiler and it ran 200 yards into some thick stuff. They waited until the next day to go look for it...
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Old February 13, 2012, 06:36 PM   #9
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Hunting or stopping?

Jack O'Connor wrote that 308 or 30-06 180 grain Remingon Cork-Lokt bullets will shoot bough the broad side of a brown bear (AKA grizzly)

Several NRA hunting publication have indicated about the same.

I also plan (dream) of such a hunt and have buddy there who'll host such a hunt.

The Helmerics couple in Alaska, 1950s, hunted and observed brown bear hunts with 30-30.

If the bear doesn't see you then a heaviest SP bullet in 30-06/308 class of a rifle that you KNOW ought to be enough, but if you have a 300 H&H or Win Mag that you're accurate with then might as well use that, so you don't have to track as far...that's what my friend in AK uses: 300 mags. Msr bear hunting shots are under 75 yards, so I gather.

Once a brown bear's alerted and threatened then the heaviest stopping rifle that can be shot well might be handy. I've heard 220 grain 30-06 can stop 'em if you are calm and accurate. Might be the right excuse to tryout a 458 Win Mag or Lott rile (not that I can afford it after I pay for the LRB M14SA build).

Disclosure: I've not yet shot a bear.
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Last edited by Havamal; February 13, 2012 at 06:56 PM.
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Old February 13, 2012, 06:47 PM   #10
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1st off... been told a 30-06 in the right hands will kill anything in North America

... that said, an Alaska Kodiak bear hunt is on my "bucket list"

I have a 338 Win Mag & a 375 H&H in Browning stainless stalkers... in shooting factory ammo Federal Premium Safari both cartridges loaded with Trophy Bonded Bear Claw bullets, I found the 338 to have more penitration at 200 yards... not that the 375 shouldn't easily kill a bear with a good shot... trouble is... my expirience, nothing like that ever kills easily...

just finished up the mechanicals on my custom 416 Rigby... an Enfield action massaged to hold 3 in the mag & one in the chamber... once finished, it aught to actually replace the 375 in my 2 rifle case on that day I do go match wits with that most dangerous of foe... again, not that there is anything wrong with the H&H... my 338 is set up with a Burris 4-16, & my 375 is set up with a 2-7... thinking maybe 1-4 X on the 416 ???

I'm just going to flat out say I'm not a good enough hunter to shoot a Kodiak brown with a .270... or maybe just too much of a chicken
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Old February 13, 2012, 07:19 PM   #11
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Our High School mascot is the Bear, (Go Bears!) and we have two mounted grizzly bears in our high school. One in the gymnasium, one in the lobby near the principal's office. Both were donated after the hunter passed away and his wife was cleaning out the house.

Near the base of each mount, there is a little placard telling about the location and the kill, the date, and the rifle used. One was killed with a 7mm Remington Magnum, one was killed with a .300 Winchester Magnum. Both hunts were guided hunts, so I presume that the outfitter had a back-up gun that he was both comfortable and capable with.

I don't think that I'd go after a grizzly bear with a .30-30, but plenty have been killed with them. I think that it's very interesting that the Alaskan CoPilot rifle is available in .45-70, as is the Marlin Guide Gun. I believe that any firearm above .30-06 should be capable of taking a grizzly bear, as long as your guide has a heavy thumper to help keep you safe.
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Old February 13, 2012, 07:30 PM   #12
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I would lean to the bigger side, I would take my .375 Ruger, I would rather have more than I need than wish I had more while I was healing up.......
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Old February 13, 2012, 09:54 PM   #13
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Hunting bear and bear defense are two different things. A 30-06 would be the minimum I would use to hunt. For defense against the big bears I want something thats going to be able to bust them down fast, you bust up a shoulder and then you can kill him at your leisure. 45-70 hotly loaded or a 12 guage shooting magnum solid slugs like Brenneke's.
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Old February 13, 2012, 10:13 PM   #14
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Google "old Mose"

I just looked, based on my memories of an article about him I read in a gun magzine a long time ago. The one that I just read told the story pretty well, but left out details about the gun that got him.

From what I remember, it was a .30-40 Krag. 1,000lb grizzly downed by a .30-40 Krag (although if I remember right, it took several shots).

I think I'd set my minimum grizzly standard at .30-40
All else being equal (and it almost never is) bigger bullets tend to work better.
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Old February 13, 2012, 10:48 PM   #15
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In 1953 63 yr old Bella Twin shot and killed a grizzly bear (1000 lb) with a SS .22 LR (7 shots to the brain) the skull measured 26 5/16 B&C and is currently ranked 30 th amongst the all time records and is either the largest taken in Alberta, Canada or amongst the largest.

Proof positive that "ANY" caliber can do the job, provided proper placement, but methinks I will stick with my .416 Rigby with Partitions or Woodleigh bullets.
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Old February 13, 2012, 11:09 PM   #16
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Ol Mose usually comes up when grizzlies get mentioned. The bear hunter who shot him is reported to have killed him with either a 25-35 or a 30-40 at approximately 15 yds. I personally would prefer a bit more gun and a bit more range.

No matter. The reason for the difference in cartridges and calibers is simple: Alaska is the largest state in the Union, and the wide variety of cover, vegetation types, size and aggression of the bears, as well as the guide's ability to back you up will influence the suggested minimums. I remember my Dad telling me about when he was in the Navy: a shore party in Alaska armed with M1s defended themsleves from a grizzly. They killed the grizzly, but not before he mauled every single one of them. So I would prefer a bit more gun. Really, IMO you should first decide where you want to hunt, then discuss it with the guide, then get really comfortable with the rifle.
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Old February 14, 2012, 01:47 AM   #17
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Having lived in Kodiak and encountered a few Kodiak Coastal Brownies, I'm too chicken to risk it with a .270 Win too...

My standard bear gun is a Marlin 1895STP in .45/70 loaded with 405gr hardcast lead pills. However, I've carried it mostly for defense purposes though I also carried it for "backup" purposes for my buddy who took a Kodiak Brownie with a bow without incident.

IMO, the last thing in the world that you want when hunting a big brown bear is a whizzum-bang-earschplittenloudenboomermagnum. I have a personal distaste/disdain for the .300 Win Mag, it won't do anything a .30/06 or .308 won't do in a realistic hunting situation with proper ammo. Just because the same weight bullet is going faster doesn't mean it'll kill a bear quicker, and the increased speed is actually counter-productive with all but the toughest bullet designs.

The .338 Win Mag is one cartridge that I'm on the fence about. It's fairly well-rounded for just about all AK big game, assuming proper ammo selection and ranges. But it still just kind of "irks" me as a brownie gun because of the high velocity and negative impact that can have on less than ideal ammo selection.

The .375 H&H is about as close to the perfect AK big game cartridge as you can get. This is especially true if the shooter is a handloader. You can get .30/06 performance for deer, and you can get full-house .375 H&H elephant-gun performance for the more dangerous critters. If I could only have one centerfire rifle for AK, it would either be a .375 H&H or a .45/70.

The .416 and up class of "African Safari" cartridges will work fine on a big brownie, but are a bit overbore for the average hunter and are way more gun than what is necessary for smaller, less dangerous species of big game such as deer, elk, moose, etc. But hey, if you have one, and you can shoot it well, why not?

The .45/70 is an ideal brownie hunting cartridge. Quick handling, relatively light, and shorter rifle length compared to many others I've mentioned. I prefer it for brownie hunting and for defense. Most shots on a brown bear in AK will be less than 150yds, and the vast majority will be less than 75yds. Either of these ranges are well within the capabilities of a .45/70. Most guides I personally know in Kodiak carry one variant or another of a .45/70 in a Marlin lever gun. That speaks volumes to me.

One poster mentioned that a Kodiak Coastal Brownie hunt was on their "bucket list". Which brings me to a major point... For most people, an Alaskan bear hunt is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. One that costs as much as a new crew cab pickup, and one that you will remember until your dying breath. Don't jeapordize that by choosing an insufficient cartridge, nor by choosing a cartridge/gun that you are not inherently familiar with/can't handle well due to any factor, recoil included.

For non-residents, you will be required to have a guide. You should contact them at least 8-12 months prior to your hunt and seek their advice on everything concerning the hunt. This conversation should focus as much on guns/ammo/shooting techniques as it does physical conditioning and excercises that will help prepare you for a remote Alaskan hunt. Both are equally important. You don't want to have a heart attack on the side of an Alaskan mountain (though I can think of worse places to kick the bucket).

I didn't include a lot of people's favortie cartridges in the above list for one of two simple reasons. Either I haven't seen the cartridge (such as .375 Ruger) widely available on ammo shelves in Kodiak, or it's too far on the light side for the intended hunt, IMO (a perfect shooter with an accurate, familiar .30/06 loaded with 200gr Partitions would be the lowest I would go).

Any questions, post them here or PM me.
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Old February 14, 2012, 06:47 AM   #18
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70 years ago, 300 Savage was widely recommended for ALL North American big game. This cartridge is similar to .308 and 30-06 out to about 175 yards. But beyond this distance, the larger cases hit harder due to increased powder capacity and greater velocity.

Many of the colossal bears have been taken with old time cartridges such as 45-70 and others.

I'm thinking that .308 & 30-06 loaded with a 200 grain bullets of bonded core design should do well if the hunter does his part. That is, wait for a broadside shot and place the bullet(s) through the shoulders. That being said, I honestly admit that I've never hunted the great bears. Largest animal I ever killed was a Dakota bison and it folded up on the spot from a brain shot at approx 125 yards. I've also taken one Canadian moose with my .308 - two chests shots did the job nicely.


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Old February 14, 2012, 08:11 AM   #19
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- Heavy-bullet 30-06/300Win if you have a set-up shot/longer ranges.
- 45-70 if you are dealing with the unxpected/close-in
- 375H&H (or ballistically-identical 375 Ruger if ammo availability is not a problem) does both equally well.

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Old February 14, 2012, 08:03 PM   #20
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I dont use a .270 when I am hunting grizzly, but do have some .270 "bear loads" using a 150 grain Grand Slam. I carry them while sheep hunting in case I see a nice grizzly. I am confident they will work.

A friend of mine killed a nice interior grizzly with his .257 Roberts with 100 grain Nosler Ballistic Tip bullets. One shot through the ribs was all it took.

As was said, a big difference in what is needed to kill a grizzly compared to reliably and quickly stopping a charge. If you are hunting with a guide, he will have the stopping covered.
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Old February 14, 2012, 09:43 PM   #21
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My standard bear gun is a Marlin 1895STP in .45/70 loaded with 405gr hardcast lead pills. However, I've carried it mostly for defense purposes though I also carried it for "backup" purposes for my buddy who took a Kodiak Brownie with a bow without incident.

IMO, the last thing in the world that you want when hunting a big brown bear is a whizzum-bang-earschplittenloudenboomermagnum. I have a personal distaste/disdain for the .300 Win Mag, it won't do anything a .30/06 or .308 won't do in a realistic hunting situation with proper ammo. Just because the same weight bullet is going faster doesn't mean it'll kill a bear quicker, and the increased speed is actually counter-productive with all but the toughest bullet designs.
I don't completely understand your logic. The one point where we agree is that a 300 mag doesn't offer any advantages at close range over a properly loaded 308 or 30-06. The extra velocity just adds effective range, not close range killing power.

But I think your 45-70 theory is flawed. While it does not have "magnum" on the headstamp, when you get to the power levels needed for large bear, it is a magnum.

A 220 gr Nosler partition fired at 30-06 or 300 mag velocities will have no trouble holding together and has proven to out penetrate 45-70 loads.

Then there is the recoil factor:

My 8 lb 30-06 loaded with 220 gr partitions @ 2500 fps will generate 24 ft. lbs. of recoil.

My 8 lb 300 WSM with the same bullet @ 2650 will generate about 28 ft. lbs. of recoil.

My 7.5 lb 45-70 loaded with 405 gr bullets @1850 fps will generate over 40 ft. lbs. of recoil.

I can't see having a round that has close to double the recoil that does not offer me any performance advantages over a 30-06. While you have a disdain for a magnum, it actually does the same job with far less recoil. Sure, if you are using a 300 mag with light 150 gr bullets @ 3400 fps they will not get the job done, but neither will a 300 gr 45-70 bullet @ 2500 fps.

My personal choice would be the 30-06 because of easy availibility of good ammo and the fact that at closer ranges the 300 mag would offer no real advantage. But if I happened to have the 300 in my hands it would not be a disadvantage and would be a slight advantage if a longer shot were needed.

I've owned a Marlin 45-70 for close to 40 years and it would stay at home. I have no doubts that a properly loaded round would get the job done, but it wouldn't do it a bit better than many others, with much less fuss and recoil.

The biggest problem with the 45-70 is not the chambering, but the package. At those recoil levels I can shoot a bolt rifle faster for repeat shots than a lever action. I've simply had too many reliability issues with lever guns to trust my life to one either. When you get into really hot loads in any action type you are asking for trouble but bolt guns handle them much better. They are also by far the most bulletproof and reliable, especially under harsh use and weather conditions encountered on such a hunt.
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Old February 14, 2012, 10:30 PM   #22
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Lever actions

I've had issues with lever guns when in a hurry to shoot again....
Pump or bolt actions work better for me when speed counts.
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Old February 15, 2012, 12:51 AM   #23
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What calibers with a bear load can you shoot accurately? The bullet used and velocity obtained are very important. Make sure the rifle is capable of stabilizing the bullet of a particular bear load. Another possible cartridge if it meets the laws and regulations is the 7mm Rem Mag.
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Old February 15, 2012, 02:09 AM   #24
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These are not little critters and they are not cute little cuddly things. These critters are predators of the highest magnitude that can make your day turn sour very quickly. That said, the largest, most powerful cartridge is the way to go that you can handle and shoot accurately and effectively. If you can't handle a .416 Rigby, it will do you no good at all.

I would not go after these critters willingly without anything less than a .300 magnum of one sort or anther and most experts consider that a minimum. Sure, a 6.5 can kill a grizzly, but when hunting you must consider your weapon not only a hunting weapon but also a defensive weapon should the critter decide he doesn't like your antics. More than one story of two or three hunters emptying their large rifles into a bear and killing it, but the bear killing them before it died at their feet.

Most guides prefer .338 and larger caliber. Not my cup of tea any longer, so no need for me to hunt the critter. My .444 is not a great choice for hunting, but it works for me as a reliable round with enough penetration to do the job with proper shot placement. The gun feels comfortable to me and I know that with Buffalo Bore 335 gr bullets it has the penetration. The rest will be the luck of the draw and hoping I never have to use it in the first place, but it is a rifle I feel very comfortable shooting. That will be one of the most important aspects of rifle choice in the end analysis.
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Old February 15, 2012, 03:06 AM   #25
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Keep in mind that they are probably used to inexperienced people who are unfamiliar with their gun/optic setup going after something capable of ripping your guts out with a haphazard blow. They may be basing recommendations on trying to get a humane kill with a very inexperienced (with firearms) clientele. Just imagine being a guide for some businessman whose going out into the woods to take a natural born killer on a whim. He may just be looking for a mount for the "man wing" of his estate. He'll show up to go hunting wearing a track suit, loafers, and a Rolex worth more than most cars on the road with a check for $20k in hand. If said businessman becomes a mauled carcass, you don't get paid.

Look at what you have and go from there. If something you have can work, use it. That said, always check with the guide. They know the game they'll take you to. No use taking something that won't make a clean kill.
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